Treating Obesity as a Chronic Disease: Improving Metabolic Health
02 May 2023

Treating Obesity as a Chronic Disease: Improving Metabolic Health

Obesity is a complex disease that affects a little over 42% of the United States population. A little over 30% of the population is considered “overweight.” All in all, more than two-thirds of U.S. adults in the United States are overweight or have obesity. With just under 40% of Alabamians qualifying as obese, Alabama now has the third highest rate of obesity in the country.

Obesity is often associated with poor metabolic health, which can lead to a host of chronic diseases. We have to take obesity seriously. The good news is that treating obesity as a chronic disease can improve poor metabolic health, leading to better overall health outcomes.

So what is “metabolic health” exactly?

Metabolic health refers to the state of our body’s metabolic processes. These processes encompass many aspects of our overall health, including how efficiently our bodies convert food into energy, how well we regulate blood sugar levels, and how effectively we burn fat. Good metabolic health is characterized by healthy levels of blood glucose, blood pressure, triglycerides, and cholesterol. Poor metabolic health, on the other hand, is characterized by high blood sugar levels, high blood pressure, high triglycerides, low HDL (good) cholesterol, and excess belly fat. Poor metabolic health can be caused by something such as a diet high in processed foods and sugar. Genetics, on the other hand, which we cannot control also play a significant role.

Is there a link between obesity and metabolic health? Short answer: yes.

Obesity is a major risk factor for poor metabolic health. Excess body fat, particularly belly fat, can lead to insulin resistance, a condition in which the body’s cells become less responsive to insulin, the hormone that regulates blood sugar levels. This can cause high blood sugar levels and lead to type 2 diabetes. Obesity is also linked to high blood pressure, high triglycerides, and low HDL (good) cholesterol, all of which are indicators of poor metabolic health.

Traditionally, obesity has been seen as a personal failing, with the emphasis on simply losing weight through diet and exercise. We still see a significant amount of health care professionals giving the advice to “eat less and exercise more” in order to lose weight. Viewing obesity as a moral deficiency, or placing blame on the patient, is simply wrong.

Obesity affects all facets of society from “gym rats” to even our military members. To act as if the significant amount of people who are affected by obesity are “lazy” or struggling with a “cosmetic issue” is wrong.

Treating obesity as a chronic disease means recognizing that it is a complex condition that requires a multifaceted approach to treatment. This approach includes addressing both the biological and behavioral factors that contribute to obesity.

The first step in treating obesity as a chronic disease is to change the way we view it. We need to focus on  improving overall health and reducing the risk of chronic diseases associated with obesity.Woman exercising by walking outside

We can improve metabolic health through weight loss.

One of the most significant benefits of treating obesity as a chronic disease is the improvement in metabolic health that can result from weight loss. Even modest weight loss of 5-10% can lead to significant improvements in blood sugar levels, blood pressure, cholesterol, and triglycerides. This can reduce the risk of chronic diseases like diabetes, heart disease, and stroke.